Most hospitals screen every pregnant woman to check for abnormalities and chromosomal disorders such as Downs Syndrome in the foetus.
However, doctors say that there is a need for a set of guidelines for such tests as they play a crucial role in ensuring the well-being of a child. "It’s important that doctors' associations draw up consensus guidelines on the subject," said Dr Sangeeta Pikale, an obstetrician and gynecologist.
"If a child is born with Downs Syndrome in my clinic, its parents can drag me to court. These tests cannot be ignored," said CN Purandare, former president of Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India.
The screening begins when a woman is 11 weeks pregnant. Doctors conduct a sonography to check if the child has any chromosomal abnormalities. If the child is detected with abnormalities, another round of screening is done when the foetus is about 18 to 19 weeks old. "We do another set of scans, including a sonography and blood anomaly scan. This is called the triple marker. These tests can throw up disorders such as Edwards Syndrome, Patau Syndrome and Thalassemia," said Pikale. If these tests are also positive, the couples are sent for genetic screening. If the screening suggests abnormalities, the child can be aborted if it is less than 20 weeks old.